Luxembourg, Jan 5, 2014: At the end of a very exciting weekend packed with world-class actions, Europe’s contingent for the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championships was determined.
A total of nine European teams will participate in the men’s Final Round that is scheduled for September 3-21 in Poland; together with hosts Poland, 2013 European gold medalists Russia and runners-up Italy, Europe’s hopes for glory will be carried by the winners of the five third-round qualifiers from this weekend, i.e. Bulgaria, Serbia, Germany, Belgium, and Finland plus France, the second-placed team with the best result across all Pools.
Ten teams will represent Europe at the 2014 FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship coming up through September 23-October 12 in six Italian cities. The hosts of Italy, European champions Russia and European silver medalists Germany were joined this weekend by the winners of the five third-round qualification tournaments – Turkey, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, and Bulgaria – plus the two second-placed teams with the best score – Serbia and the Netherlands. The only real powerhouse to miss on a spot for the Final Round was Poland that did not exploit the home advantage in Lodz losing in three sets their last match in Pool K to 2013 European bronze medalists Belgium.
Six European countries – Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Russia, and Serbia – did qualify both of their national teams for the Final Round of this year’s World Championship.
Bulgaria got the right to participate in the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Men’s Volleyball World Championship though the players around superstar Tsvetan Sokolov lost their last game of the World Champs qualifier – Pool I in Opava to the home heroes of the Czech Republic (2:3; 25-22, 18-25, 22-25, 25-18, and 12-15). This way Bulgaria finished the tournament with seven points, enough to claim first place in the Pool while the Czechs settled for third place behind the Netherlands that on Sunday did their job routing Cyprus in straight sets (25-21, 25-15, and 25-23) before waiting for the final showdown starring the Czechs and Bulgaria.
The 2013 European bronze medalists of Serbia maintained a perfect score at the end of the World Champs qualifier – Pool J in Nis beating Portugal 3:1 (22-25, 25-11, 25-19, and 25-21) on the last day of action to book their ticket to the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Men’s World Championship.
The home guys of Germany accomplished their mission in Ludwigsburg. In the last match of the World Championship qualifier – Pool K the home heroes scored their third consecutive victory (25-17, 25-19, and 25-19) over Turkey to claim a ticket to the 2014 World Championship in Poland. In front of 3,650 spectators Germany displayed another classy performance to claim their third straight win of the tournament.
France and Belgium played an epic game in an incredible atmosphere at Carpentier hall in Paris on Sunday afternoon for the last round of action at the World Champs qualifier – Pool L held in France’s capital city. Though the Belgians edged the hosts 3:2 (25-22, 20-25, 25-17, 23-25, and 15-11), both teams won the right to go to Poland in September for the World Championship, France finishing this round of qualification as the best second across the five Pools.
Finland completed a clean sweep of their matches at the World Champs qualifier – Pool M in Poprad with a 3:2 victory over hosts Slovakia (24-26, 25-19, 25-19, 14-25, and 15-10) to qualify for the Final Round of the 2014 World Champs in Poland. Slovakia ended their home campaign in a disappointing third place as Ukraine beat Greece earlier on Sunday afternoon 3:2 (18-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-23, and 15-8) to finish the competition in second place with five points.
Turkey finished their home campaign at the World Champs qualifier – Pool I in Ankara with a perfect record after sweeping Romania in straight sets (25-15, 25-23, and 25-18) in 75 minutes on Sunday. The hosts did not lose any set in their three matches at the Baskent Volleyball Hall in Ankara to qualify for the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB Women’s World Championship.
The home heroines of Azerbaijan caused a sensation on Sunday in Baku as they finished the World Champs qualifier – Pool J with a third straight victory after edging the bronze medalists from the 2013 FIVB World Grand Prix, Serbia. The hosts came back twice from one set down to cruise past at the tie-break (19-25, 25-18, 18-25, 25-16, and 18-16) to make the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB World Champs slated for late September/early October in Italy. Serbia also got their ticket to the Championship after finishing as one of the two second-placed teams with the best score across all Pools.
In the last day of action in Lodz, Spain beat Switzerland in four sets (25-19, 25-22, 15-25 and 25-14) and scored their first 3 points in the qualification tournament to the 2014 FIVB Women’s Volleyball World Championship. However, the real highlight was the final game on schedule where Poland lost to 2013 European bronze medalists Belgium 0:3 (20-25, 20-25 and 25-27). This result gave Belgium the top spot in Pool K and an immediate qualification to the Final Round of the 2014 World Championship.
It was the perfect way to end a memorable Volleyball weekend at the Gimnasium sports hall in Rovinj as on Sunday Croatia edged the Netherlands after a breath-taking thriller (3:2; 25-18, 25-23, 22-25, 22-25, and 16-14) to top the charts in Pool L and qualify to the Final Round of the 2014 FIVB World Championship. Actually, the “Oranjes” also got that much desired ticket for – even before the end of this game – they knew they would anyway be one of the two second-placed teams with the best score across all Pools that are also set to travel to Italy in late September.
On Sunday Bulgaria completed a clean sweep of their matches at the World Champs qualifier – Pool M in Samokov edging Belarus 3:1 (25-11, 32-34, 25-9, and 25-23) to qualify to the 2014 FIVB Volleyball World Championship in Italy. Though they lost their second set in the competition, the home “Lionesses” made it three in a row as they were paced by Emiliya Nikolova who registered 20 points. —- FIVB